Friday, September 25, 2015

Doc Slash Keeps it Real.

Dear Freshman,

When you asked for comments on your earlier rough draft, and I said that you needed to proofread and add in significantly more explanation for how the support in your paper ties back to your thesis statement, that was not secret code for 'Add 2.5 additional sentences to a 4 page paper, then without changing so much as a single further word, send the exact same paper back to me asking for my thoughts on how your quote unquote 'New' draft was looking.'

Yours MOST sincerely,
Doc Slash


  1. I stopped doing mandatory rough drafts for this exact reason. The "final" drafts never looked appreciably different, so I was wasting several hours a week marking drafts. Now, they can come to me if they want advice on a draft, but they have to seek it out, which means they're much more likely to use it.

  2. Doc Slash, don't you understand why little Froshie asked you for feedback? It was to show that he is engaged. And now he is engaging again. Later he'll be able to argue about his grade because he worked so HAAAAARRRRD.

    It's about the form, not the substance.

  3. I think Proffie G. nailed it. The implied question is something along the lines of "how much do I have to actually do to improve my grade? Can I get away with 2.5 sentences?"

    I, too, would be very tempted to send the email above. Of course, what I'd actually send would be something beginning "this looks like a start [my favorite beginning for what some around here call a "shit sandwich"], but. . ." followed by a reiteration (very lightly if at all revised) of the comments I've already given the student.

    Though I still do the usual draft-conference-revise sequence for the big assignment in my class, I'm increasingly inclined to think that other approaches -- e.g. assigning smaller bits of writing that eventually get combined into a larger one, or revising a larger piece of writing into a shorter one and/or for another audience -- give students something closer to the actual experience we envision when we assign or allow a revision.

    Well, either that or have them revise right in front of us, either in the classroom or in office hours, and maybe call it something else ("do this two different ways; which one is better and why?"). Otherwise, it gets too tangled up with grading, resulting in a reverse arms race where the student tries to figure out how little (s)he can do and still get the grade (s)he wants, while we try to figure out how little we can raise the grade given that the student did, after all, do something (often without really improving the paper much in the process).

  4. As annoying as this game is with a frosh, fear not, it doesn't go away when they aspire to gradflakedom.

    I just had a student declare utter inability to navigate the Blackhole to find posted feedback so, would I purdy please, just send a private EMail detailing just what is needed for the student to resume receiving the perfect grades that were promised upon payment of tuition?

    Or the doctoral divebomb of proposal boilerplate: "I intend to study [something vague but topical] using [a wholly unrealistic population, think all college students] proving using [generic data analysis, but likely qualitative because that's easier, doncha know?] that [some socially enlightened platitude, because we're all about social engagement here.].

    When that "rough draft" is returned with instructions to provide a fuck-ton more specific (and relevant) information, it is then returned with textbook definitions courtesy of the introductory courses of the program.

    But, never lose sight, Doc Slash, it is OUR obligation to see to it they succeed!